An Act of Defiant Hope

Another subversive bible study from Walter Brueggemann. Re-posted from

This is an unabashed commendation of a book. The book by Franck Prevot is entitled Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees (2015). This children’s book, with its winsome art work, tells the story of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who learned from her mother that “a tree is worth more than its wood.” As she grew up she became aware that her people were deprived of much of their land for agriculture. She saw the devastation of the forests as her country gained independence from Britain. In the face of all the deforestation, her mother taught her:

A tree is a treasure that provides shade, fruit, pure air, and nesting places for birds, and that pulses with the vitality of life. Trees are hideouts for insects and provide inspiration for poets. A tree is a little bit of the future (21).

In response to the destruction of deforestation that she could observe, Maathai organized the Green Belt Movement to encourage villagers to plant many, many trees. She encountered much opposition from business interests and from the authoritarian government of Daniel arap Moi. She was imprisoned by the government for her oppositional stance, but slowly she is able to gain public support for her democratic vision of society. Her great courage led not only to many trees, but to the flourishing of democracy in her home country of Kenya. It is clear that her story is one that our children and grandchildren urgently need to hear, a story of courage in devotion to the wellbeing of the earth and its creaturely population. Click here to read the rest.

The Big Deception

An excerpt from the newsletter of Alec Karakatsanis (May 18, 2023).

Over forty years into the War on Drugs, the following are true:

  • The U.S. has spent trillions of dollars; detained tens of millions of people for hundreds of millions of years; separated tens of millions of children from parents; chemically destroyed millions of acres of rainforest and pristine ecosystems in Latin America; killed hundreds of thousands of people; stopped, searched, sexually violated, and arrested hundreds of millions of people; surveilled the communications of billions of people globally; stolen billions of dollars in property from poor people through civil forfeiture; deported hundreds of thousands of people; deprived tens of millions of people of highly effective therapeutic treatments for cancer, mental illness, PTSD, chronic pain, etc.; caused millions of people to become infected with infectious diseases; kicked millions of families out of public housing and public benefits; put tens of millions of poor people into an endless cycle of debt; and cost tens of millions of people their jobs at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars to the economy.
  • The use of prohibited drugs has increased, prohibited drugs are more potent than ever, and overdose deaths have skyrocketed to their highest levels in U.S. history.  

People in power making drug policy are not universally incompetent. Most of the people crafting U.S. drug policy know the above facts. 

Continue reading “The Big Deception”

Will Not Sit Silently

From The Howard University Graduates for Solidarity, Written Statement Regarding the Howard University Graduates’ Protest of President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at Howard University’s 155th Commencement Ceremony at Capital One Arena

The Howard University Commencement Ceremony is a joyous occasion, a celebration of achievement in the face of generational, ongoing, and systemic adversity. For Black students, graduating college is a success beyond measure. We are proud to have attended the illustrious Howard University, our historically Black University, our Mecca. 

Yet, while we are excited to finish our last endeavor at Howard University, we are infinitely angered and exhausted by the many forms of ongoing white supremacist violence in the United States of America and internationally.  We are exhausted by the lack of resources we had as Howard Students, struggling to keep up with increasing tuition rates and inadequate housing options amidst the corporatization of our board of trustees and the fight to renew student, faculty, and community voting representation within it, let alone the ongoing gentrification of DC at large to which Howard University and its affiliates are a party. We maintain countless grievances and will not sit silently and allow them to go unrecognized, especially in light of campaign season. On today, May 13th, 2023, our graduation day and the 38th anniversary of the MOVE bombing, we choose to advocate. When there is no justice, there should be no peace. 

Continue reading “Will Not Sit Silently”

The Aftermath of Title 42

A missive from John Fanestil, on the frontlines of the fight for immigrant justice. If you are in the Southern California next Sunday, May 21, join people of faith and conscious at Fandango at the Wall at 11am (1250 Monument Road, San Diego)

May 13, 2022 – San Diego

The lifting of Title 42 has brought national attention to the extreme conditions of human suffering on our nation’s southern border. But these conditions are nothing new. They are the product of a misguided approach to the border that has been embraced by Presidents of both parties since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. This approach mistakenly frames the challenges on the border as matters of “national security,” and then mistakenly attempts to address them with the administrative apparatus of the Department of Homeland Security. The results have been disastrous.

In recent weeks here in San Diego alone:

— Thousands of desperate migrants have entered into U.S. territory in hopes of seeking asylum. Last night I witnessed many hundreds trapped between the walls separating San Diego and Tijuana. Onsite I heard not just Spanish, but Chinese, Turkish, Haitian Creole, and several Eastern European and South Asian languages. These hundreds have been left stranded by U.S. authorities for as many as three days with minimal assistance, and now rely for their basic human needs on the extraordinary support of San Diego community organizations and volunteers.

Continue reading “The Aftermath of Title 42”

A Faux National Crisis

By Bettina Love, re-posted from Education Week

“The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.” This sentence, rooted in misleading and skewed data, changed education forever. Forty years ago, starting in April 1983, this country manufactured an education crisis that effectively put targets on the backs of its children, especially Black children. U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, under the direction of President Ronald Reagan, released a 36-page report titled “A Nation at Risk.” It told the world that not only were American children failing academically, but “if an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

The authors claimed that data proved American children were lagging behind those in other industrialized nations in student achievement, citing, among other references, plummeting SAT scores and a functional illiteracy rate among minority children as high as 40 percent. The report kindled education reform as we know it. However, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, tests that are the most widely respected yardstick of student achievement nationally, reported that from the 1970s to the early 1980s, the performance of elementary and secondary pupils increased moderately on some examinations while dropping slightly on others. The report intentionally omitted such positive educational data, but why?

Click HERE to read the rest of the article.

Easter Faith and Empire

By Ched Myers, a brilliant Bush-era article on Luke’s Road to Emmaus story (this weekend’s Gospel text). It is more relevant than ever.

In the first-century Pax Romana, Christians had the difficult and demanding task of discerning how to cling to a radical ethos of life – symbolized preeminently by their stubborn belief in the Resurrection of Jesus – while living under the chilling shadow of an imperial culture of domination and death. Today, in the twenty-first-century Pax Americana, U.S. Christians are faced with the same challenge: to celebrate Easter faith in the teeth of empire and its discontents.

“The words empire and imperialism enjoy no easy hospitality in the minds and hearts of most contemporary Americans,” wrote the great historian William Appleman Williams a quarter century ago in his brilliant rereading of U.S. history. Yet today, because of the ascendancy of the New Right’s ideological project (whose intellectual architecture is typified by the Project for a New American Century), the words are increasingly used approvingly in regard to U.S. policy. We are indeed well down the road of imperial unilateralism, and are seeing clearly that this means a world held hostage to wars and rumors of war. The conquest and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq have had an enormous human and political cost. Meanwhile, the Unites States has military bases on every continent and some form of military presence in almost two-thirds of the 189 member states in the United Nations.

Read the full article here.

The Liberation of All Oppressed People

An excerpt from the Combahee River Collective (1977).

Above all else, Our politics initially sprang from the shared belief that Black women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity not as an adjunct to somebody else’s may because of our need as human persons for autonomy. This may seem so obvious as to sound simplistic, but it is apparent that no other ostensibly progressive movement has ever considered our specific oppression as a priority or worked seriously for the ending of that oppression. Merely naming the pejorative stereotypes attributed to Black women (e.g. mammy, matriarch, Sapphire, whore, bulldagger), let alone cataloguing the cruel, often murderous, treatment we receive, indicates how little value has been placed upon our lives during four centuries of bondage in the Western hemisphere. We realize that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation are us. Our politics evolve from a healthy love for ourselves, our sisters and our community which allows us to continue our struggle and work.

This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression. In the case of Black women this is a particularly repugnant, dangerous, threatening, and therefore revolutionary concept because it is obvious from looking at all the political movements that have preceded us that anyone is more worthy of liberation than ourselves. We reject pedestals, queenhood, and walking ten paces behind. To be recognized as human, levelly human, is enough.

Continue reading “The Liberation of All Oppressed People”

Working for a Different Way to Live

lilyBy Lily Mendoza, from “Healing Historical Trauma: Ethnoautobiography as Decolonizing Practice,” a talk delivered at the Graduate Center, University of Pretoria, August 16, 2016:

Indeed, there is hope in remembering that for the majority of our time on the planet, we have lived very differently than we do today. We did not make war a way of life; we did not treat the Earth as mere resource to do with as we please; we did not deem ourselves the most important creatures on the planet; we did not always enslave; we did not take more than we needed and without giving back; we did not build businesses out of imprisoning huge numbers of our population, or out of producing weapons of mass destruction or psychotropic drugs meant to numb our pain and boredom; we did not take over every square inch of land driving every other species out their habitat and into extinction, etc. In other words, if, for the majority of our life on the planet, we did not do any of these things—i.e., we did not rape, pillage, and plunder—surely we can stop doing so again and start desiring and working for a different way to live on our shared planet?  Continue reading “Working for a Different Way to Live”

The Healing Potential of Hatred

By Tommy Airey

Four years ago this month, Lindsay and I found ourselves, for a short time, living in Bend, a rapidly developing whitopia in Central Oregon where the Great Basin Desert meets the Cascade Mountains. While we waited for the birth of our nephew Milo Brooks, my brother-in-law and I spent several nights bonding over the Portland Trailblazers, who boasted a backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, two smaller guards who played at obscure division one colleges. Lillard, who reps the number 0 to honor Oakland – his hometown – was and is the face of the franchise. His signature celebration is what fans affectionately refer to as “Dame Time.” After a big shot, he lifts up his left hand to the crowd and taps the invisible watch on his wrist. It’s not just game time. It’s Dame time.

In the first round of the 2019 playoffs, Dame and the Blazers were pitted against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook, the all-star point guard from L.A. who also wears 0. When Russ does something spectacular, he brings his hands together and rocks back and forth, like he is cradling an invisible baby. When smaller opponents (like Dame) try to guard him, Russ treats them like little babies. Lillard carries himself with a quiet confidence energized by who he is for (the team, the city, his family, his hometown). Russ stays locked in on who is out to get him (real or imagined). While Dame Time taps into self-love, Westbrook’s trademark gesture is a taunt. His staring, glaring brand of bully ball is dead-set on diminishing others. Russ was (and is) so easy to root against.

Continue reading “The Healing Potential of Hatred”

The Resurrection is Against the Law

BillAn excerpt from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s classic Seasons of Faith and Conscience (1991).

The sealing of the tomb is, I believe, notoriously misunderstood. I grew up with a Sunday School notion that to seal the tomb was a matter of hefting the big stone and cementing it tight. The seal, in my mind’s eye, was something like first-century caulking–puttying up the cracks to keep the stink in. Not so. This is a legal seal. Cords would be strung across the rock and anchored at each end with clay. To move the stone would break the seal and indicate tampering. Continue reading “The Resurrection is Against the Law”